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JAMA. 2008 Apr 23;299(16):1922-8. doi: 10.1001/jama.299.16.1922.

Cost-related medication nonadherence and spending on basic needs following implementation of Medicare Part D.

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  • 1Department of Ambulatory Care and Prevention, Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, 133 Brookline Ave, 6th Floor, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.



Cost-related medication nonadherence (CRN) has been a persistent problem for individuals who are elderly and disabled in the United States. The impact of Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D) on CRN is unknown.


To estimate changes in CRN and forgoing basic needs to pay for drugs following Part D implementation.


In a population-level study design, changes in study outcomes between 2005 and 2006 before and after Medicare Part D implementation were compared with historical changes between 2004 and 2005. The community-dwelling sample of the nationally representative Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (unweighted unique n = 24,234; response rate, 72.3%) was used, and logistic regression analyses were controlled for demographic characteristics, health status, and historical trends.


Self-reports of CRN (skipping or reducing doses, not obtaining prescriptions) and spending less on basic needs to afford medicines.


The unadjusted, weighted prevalence of CRN was 15.2% in 2004, 14.1% in 2005, and 11.5% after Part D implementation in 2006. The prevalence of spending less on basic needs was 10.6% in 2004, 11.1% in 2005, and 7.6% in 2006. Adjusted analyses comparing 2006 with 2005 and controlling for historical changes (2005 vs 2004) demonstrated significant decreases in the odds of CRN (ratio of odds ratios [ORs], 0.85; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.74-0.98; P = .03) and spending less on basic needs (ratio of ORs, 0.59; 95% CI, 0.48-0.72; P < .001). No significant changes in CRN were observed among beneficiaries with fair to poor health (ratio of ORs, 1.00; 95% CI, 0.82-1.21; P = .97), despite high baseline CRN prevalence for this group (22.2% in 2005) and significant decreases among beneficiaries with good to excellent health (ratio of ORs, 0.77; 95% CI, 0.63-0.95; P = .02). However, significant reductions in spending less on basic needs were observed in both groups (fair to poor health: ratio of ORs, 0.60; 95% CI, 0.47-0.75; P < .001; and good to excellent health: ratio of ORs, 0.57; 95% CI, 0.44-0.75; P < .001).


In this survey population, there was evidence for a small but significant overall decrease in CRN and forgoing basic needs following Part D implementation. However, no net decrease in CRN after Part D was observed among the sickest beneficiaries, who continued to experience higher rates of CRN.

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